“此教我先威众耳。”

乃丹书帛曰“陈胜王”,置人所罾鱼腹中。卒买鱼烹食,得鱼腹中书 ,固以怪之矣。

 “He means us to awe men first.”
To convince people to support this uprising, they wrote “Chen She will be king!” in vermilion on silk and placed it in the belly of a fish. When the conscripts bought the fish and cooked it, they were amazed to find this writing in its belly.

 

                                                                                            Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian, House of Chen She, 94BC

                                                                                                                                         

 

​鱼     腹     丹     书

Three     or     More    Fish

 
 
 

Chen Sheng and Wu Guang were both army officers. They were ordered to lead their bands of commoner soldiers north to participate in the defense of Yuyang . However, they were stopped halfway by flooding from a severe rainstorm. The harsh Qin laws mandated execution for those who showed up late for government jobs, regardless of the nature of the delay. 

 

Figuring that they would rather fight for their freedom than face execution, Chen and Wu organized a band of 900 villagers to rebel against the government. To convince people to support this uprising, Chen Sheng and Wu Guang wrote "King Chen Sheng" on a piece of silk, and placed it in the belly of a fish.

 

Known as the first peasant revolts in Chinese history, the uprising and its details can be referred in The Records of the Grand Historian(Shiji), House of Chen She(Chen Sheng). The Records of the Grand Historian was finished around 94BC, and it is know as the "foundational text in Chinese civilization”. 

 

I first read the text in my Chinese class when I was in middle school. This story has been included as a required reading since 1960. It was deleted from the text book in 2019.